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Across the Pond: An Englishman's View of America Hardcover – June 24, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393088987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393088984
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Eagleton has taught at top universities, authored 40-plus books, and feuded with, among others, Richard Dawkins and Martin Amis. He’s a Marxist and a Catholic (or at least was raised as one), and he traces his roots not to Manchester, where he grew up, but to Galway, from which his family migrated. So when Eagleton follows Tocqueville and Dickens in anatomizing the American attitudes and anomalies, he employs a complex collection of tools and perspectives. Across the Pond explores the language the U.S., the UK, and Ireland (where the author now lives) share but use quite differently. It ponders these nations’ utterly distinct notions of the relationships between body and mind, mind and will, and will and reality, and their relative fondness for comedy and tragedy, satire and “the gag.” Henry James figures here, but so do Thomas Aquinas and Milan Kundera. Eagleton sees much to admire in the U.S.—plus contradictions, hypocrisies, and refusals to face reality that deserve scorn. He closes with “Modest Proposals” that urge Americans to learn, among other things, “how to mock themselves” and “how to use a teapot.” --Mary Carroll

Review

“Incisive and honest… Eagleton’s contribution to the persistent subgenre of Toquevillian analysis: the European curmudgeon’s critical, ultimately appreciative and, in Eagleton’s case, loving guide to the wacky Yanks and their nation.” (Michael Washburn - Boston Globe)

“[Eagleton is] clearly a writer who enjoys being a provocateur: there’s something to argue with on pretty much every page of Across the Pond, and usually something downright hilarious, too. Great stuff…Terry Eagleton is a funny man.” (Geoff Nicholson - Los Angeles Review of Books)

“Terry Eagleton has a gift for the kind of generalizations that at first appear outrageous but seem, on reflection, annoyingly perceptive. Were I one of the expressive Americans he describes, I’d call this book awesome; as a constipated Brit, I’m inclined to say that it is not at all bad.” (Henry Hitchings, author, The Secret Life of Words)

“His mode is that of a jocular anthropologist, pint in hand, chattily offering up his opinions.” (David Wolf - The New Republic)

More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

Customer Reviews

Maybe it get better - I'm not done yet.
Carl Mortensen
Trenchant observations of the US from an English perspective presented with a highly intelligent (and very British) sense of humor.
Roger H. Voelker
That was pretty much full of tripe, too.
M. R. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Black Swan on May 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am British and have lived in the US for ten years, so you would think the content of this book would be resonant with my own experiences. The perspective offered is quirky, anecdotal, amateurish and generalizes the highly personal observations and opinions of the author in a rather grating way. Both his description of typical British and American attitudes and behavior seemed off the mark much of the time. He is very anchored in his own generation and the specific places in each very diverse country he has been to. His humor is not really very funny, despite his trying very hard. There is also an undercurrent of superiority and mean-ness that is off-putting. He claims, for instance, that Americans use the word kids too much instead of children. First of all, who cares? Secondly in Glasgow, where I grew up, the childrens' hospital was referred to as the "Sick Kids", whereas my childrens' pre-school in the US always uses the word children in published materials, classroom reports and parent-teacher meetings. Reading between the lines I would guess he was only in the US for a few years at the most, didn't really fit in or enjoy it and his motivation in writing the book was to press home the point "you're not as great as you think" to Americans. Well, my guess is most of them don't care. This may find a readership with Brits and Irish who aren't that high on America, but even they will probably find it dreary and pedantic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Raminak on June 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is funny and perceptive. For someone who has lived on both sides of the pond, many of the observations on British and American attitudes ring true. One feels though that the book is somewhat rushed. It is more like a series of bullet points and a certain level of discontinuity in the flow of topics. There is a much longer and more in-depth book 'willing' to burst out. Terry Eagleton might consider this book (really an essay) as an outline for an updated version.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on January 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Random observations from a tetchy Brit intellectual, many of which are either trite or off the mark. All told in a style that is trying way too hard to be clever and is simply not all that amusing (but what do you expect from a Marxist literary theorist?). BTW, I was born over there, and grew up and live over here.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By DJ Jonathan E. on December 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Just because a work is not entirely worthless does not mean that it is not far from worthy. Eagleton makes the occasional good point, a nugget amidst the dross. However, most of the time he rather earnestly and onanistically explores his own navel, revealing more about his prejudices than the supposed subject. Much of the book is a tiresome slog through what can only be described as an intellectualist hall of mirrors, confusing and ultimately pointless.

Stereotypes and generalizations are a poor man's way of looking at the world, and despite a slightly amusing anecdote here and there, Eagleton never manages to get beyond a rather familiar and trite view of Americans. If there's an obvious target, Eagleton shoots at it regardless of whether it's been hit before or is worth hitting in the first place. As an Englishman living in the US for over forty years, I felt that Eagleton has simply not observed the wide variety of humanity, let alone the landscapes and cities, to be found in this country. Eagleton rightly takes aim at American foreign policy, but one doubts that any Americans will take note after his generally dismissive, even abusive, comments and insults towards them. He is a master of the old English skill of delivering sugar-coated venom.

There is a tradition in the world of drama of describing an appallingly awful performance as "extraordinary." This is an extraordinary book. Extraordinary that it found a publisher and extraordinary that the author found it peculiar that some publishers turned him down. He is too clever by half and quite overly full of himself.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George Goldberg on August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am an American who has lived in England, where I was a member of the London Symphony Chorus. I love Eagleton's style, and as I share his outlook on both countries, I find this book brilliant. I could not help but constantly interrupt whatever my wife was doing to read a passage here and there to her, which usually left both of us laughing so hard we had to wipe our eyes. If you take this book too seriously, well, you will be proving the author's thesis, especially if you are American. If you look upon it as a couple of hours of harmless fun, with perhaps a serious point occasionally to be made, you will have spent the time well. Highly recommended.
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By Mom of 3 on July 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Format: Paperback
As a long time business school lecturer, often leading a three-day simulation game called “Doing Business in the USA”, I couldn’t resist having a go at doing a Yank’s view of An Englishman’s View of the USA. My favorite tongue-in-cheek characterization of “my fellow citizens” has long been, “All USians are unique.” It is with this sense of self-attributed specialness that Eagleton begins his sometime admiring, sometime caustic look at our race(s).

The author acknowledges the abhorrence of stereotypes but makes stereotypes work for him, all too accurately, to the pain and pleasure their deserving targets. Stereotypes can be received in two ways, as insult when they appeal to our sense of victimhood, of being abused, or, on the other hand, as a source of insight about some part of ourselves that we are not aware of. Unfortunately for the author as well as for the group under discussion, USians gravitate toward the former reaction. There is no doubt that we are indebted to and perhaps jealous of our insular cousins for their capacity to flout political correctness with witty wisdom and unassailable pluck to get a point across.

The first chapter discusses how we are, in Shavian terms, “divided by a common language.” It contains a plethora of alerts to linguistic differences of word meanings, style, accent and gesture on this side of the pond and that. This chapter made me realize that I was fortunate in having spent both time and trouble in the UK, as I suspect much of the author’s wordplay and contextual assumptions would not travel well with many of my compatriots. They would likely find it confirming of the smartass attitude that they tend to intuit in what sounds like an Oxford accent.
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